This week was another fun one, I was traveling to Tucson AZ, speaking at a corporate event, and was on my local KTLA News station speaking about napping, plus I spent the weekend with the media at Natural Products Expo West, what a way to spend sleep awareness week!
I found two sleep studies that I think you will find comforting: We CAN learn in our sleep, and it’s OK to have your favorite furry friend in bed with you (I’m not talking about your bed partner here).
How To Learn While You Sleep
When I was a kid, I always was looking for a better way of studying without studying. I tried sleeping with the books under my pillow, playing tapes through my boom box near my bed, even stacking books all over my bed in the hopes that the information might seep into my sleeping brain. As you may imagine, these methods and protocols did not work particularly well. But, I may have been onto something with the boom box …
For a while now, sleep researchers have looked at the memory promoting effects of REM sleep (the idea that we move info from our short-term memory to our long-term memory during sleep), and deep sleep (sleep stages 3 and 4 which help filter out information that we do not really want to remember), but no one ever really looked at the lighter stages of sleep ( in this case stage 2 specifically). A recent study, Dr. Scott Cairney, from the University of York’s Department of Psychology, explained the study:
“We asked participants in our study to learn associations between words and pictures of objects or scenes before a nap. Half of the words were then replayed during the nap to trigger the reactivation of the newly learned picture memories.
“When the participants woke after a good period of sleep, we presented them again with the words and asked them to recall the object and scene pictures. We found that their memory was better for the pictures that were connected to the words that were presented in sleep, compared to those words that weren’t.”
Using an EEG machine, the researchers were also able to see that playing the associated words to reactivate memories triggered sleep spindles (Sleep spindles are sudden bursts of oscillatory brain activity generated in the reticular nucleus of the thalamus that occur during stage 2 of light sleep in the participants’ brains. Who knows, maybe if I play the audiobook my friend got me on How To Speak Klingon, while I sleep, it may finally sink in!
Does Sleeping With A Pet Hurt My Sleep?
As most of you know, I am an animal lover. And by love, I mean that at our home we treat our animals like our kids ( according to the American Pet Products association I am not alone 60% of dog owners think of them as their kids). And yes, we do have them sleeping in our bed (French bulldog near me facing away so I do not hear him snore, then the Chihuahua, then the cat, then my wife). I know we miss them on vacations, but “could they be hurting our sleep,” was a question I wanted to ask. Then, I found this reported in Sleep Review Magazine:
According to a recent study. researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix studied 40 dogs (none were puppies) who slept in the bedroom with their owners. The humans were all generally good sleepers, with no known sleep disorders.
The dogs wore a device called a Fitbark, an activity tracker that attaches to the collar and records whether an animal is at rest and sleeping or active and at play. The people wore an Actiwatch 2, an activity monitor that records people’s movements and whether they are sleeping soundly or not. Both monitors were set to sample movement every minute, while the humans also kept a sleep diary.
Over seven days of testing, the researchers found that with a dog in the bedroom, both the humans and the dogs slept reasonably well. Humans had a mean sleep efficiency, or the percentage of time spent asleep while in bed, of 81 percent, while dogs had a sleep efficiency of 85 percent. Levels over 80 percent are generally considered satisfactory. People slept slightly better when the dog was off the bed; dogs slept the same whether they were on the bed or in another location in the bedroom.
So it looks like Hugo, Sparky, and Monty get to stay in my bed, as long as Lauren and I don’t start sleeping poorly!
My most popular FB post: Who knew so many benefits could be packed into such a tiny fruit?
My most popular Twitter post: If you find yourself asleep at the wheel…
In the News:
Michael Breus Ph.D
The Sleep Doctor